It’s that time again — apple season. Orchards from Michigan to Washington are starting to open up and sell their wares. At the same time, restaurants, bakeries, breweries, candy shops, and more are taking advantage of this year’s bumper crop to turn out some strange and wonderful creations. Here are some of our current favorites.
Apple pie: Any variety of apple pie from Bang Bang Pie, Chicago (2051 N. California; 773-276-8888): Though the owners have changed – and the menu of just-like-home-baked pies always varies from day to day – the product remains as traditional and delightful as ever. Seventy-five percent of the good in a good pie is in the crust, and Bang Bang always delivers a crust substantial enough to handle the filling with plenty of flake around the edges. Bang Bang’s take on apple pie range from the traditional to the adventuresome. Arrive open-minded (and hungry) and you won’t be disappointed.
Caramel apple: The maple caramel apple at Baked, Brooklyn (359 Van Brunt Street; 718-222-0345): Imagine the two most evocative fall flavors brought together on a stick. No, we don’t mean turkey and cranberry sauce on a stick. We mean maple and apple, skillfully combined with good stuff like cream and unsalted butter to create the ultimate fall caramel apple. The best news of all: the apple holds up well under the onslaught.
Apple cake: The apple cake at Heartland Restaurant, St. Paul (Corner of Fifth and Broadway; 651-699-3536): So what makes an apple cake worth $10? A delicate, airy texture (a rarity in apple cake), a decadent salted-caramel sauce, a sweet-salty-crunchy granola topping, an intensely flavored wafer of dried apple, and a generous smidgen of homemade vanilla ice cream.
Apple pancake: The German-style pancake at Karl Ratzsch’s, Milwaukee (320 E. Mason St.; 414-276-2720): Milwaukee’s German restaurants are German, and none are more evocative of the Old Country than Ratzsch’s. Their apple pancake, available only on the lunch menu (there’s no breakfast menu at Ratzsch’s; you’re on your own for strudel and muesli), is every bit the puffy vision of egg-powered, apple-anchored lightness — and it comes with a full serving of knackwurst! Takeout boxes are recommended.
Apple Cider: The Pumpkin Hard Cider from Ace Brewing, Sebastopol, Calif.: In case you hadn’t noticed, the hard-cider business is booming, and while we cannot conceal our love for the hometown favorite, Point Brewing’s Ciderboys First Press, Ace’s combination of two classic fall flavors is a can’t-miss pick here. And yes, it’s yummy.
Miscellaneous apple stuff: The apple pandowdy at Durgin-Park, Boston (340 Faneuil Hall Market Place, Boston; 617-227-2038): Pandowdy is really just old-Boston-speak for apple dumpling, but whatever you call it, it’s rarely comes better than it does at this Boston tradition, where schrod is still on the menu, the mountains of mashed potatoes spew melted butter, and the applesauce, like the pandowdy, is sweet, tangy and freshly made.